This is an interesting word. It’s something that as far as I can remember, I’ve never actually been called. However, it’s something I’ve certainly felt about myself many times in my 20+ years on earth.
I’m not sure exactly when it started, but it feels like it’s just something that’s always been with me…this preoccupation with people thinking I’m stupid or feeling stupid. It of course ties back in with my desire for everyone to like me, but my fear of being called or thought of as stupid had far-reaching consequences throughout my life.
It’s the reason why I was so quiet for so many years. It’s the reason I would never raise my hand in class and why the few times I did, I regretted it because what I had wanted to say didn’t come out right or someone had had an argument against it. I’ll give you an example. I was in a social political science class in college. It was during what my university coined “Interterm” – a period of time after the first semester but before the second one had started during Christmas break where students could take classes. We were talking about the ever controversial topic of legalized abortion. I took the plunge and raised my hand to share my opinion on the topic and thought I had actually made a pretty good point. Then a student a few rows over (who had a lot of conflicting opinions to my own) raised his hand and argued the point that I’d made. I was immediately overcome with regret and was sure the other student thought I was stupid for sharing my opinion and I’d felt stupid for sharing it too. As you can tell, I still remember it to this day too. It’s why was I was usually so afraid to share my thoughts and opinions on things (even though I’ve always had a lot of them) even with close friends or family. I didn’t want people to argue with them or have a different point of view because to me, that meant they thought I was stupid for feeling the way I did. It’s why I just agreed with a lot of what people would say around me. It’s the reason I would be afraid to even say hi to someone at work I didn’t know, for fear they would wonder why I was saying hi to them when I didn’t even know them.
I think because I have a physical disability and am not able to do sports or a lot of active things, I felt like all I really had was my mind and my intelligence. So when I thought people couldn’t see that or maybe thought I was unintelligent, I felt like that meant I had nothing going on for myself.
This all might sound ridiculous, but it was my reality for a long time. I still have my moments too. The difference is now I care a lot less what people think of me. I also realize that chances are, very few of the people that have ever spoken to me or argued a point I did work up the courage to share have ever actually thought I was stupid. Just because someone might have a different opinion than you doesn’t mean they automatically think you’re stupid. Sometimes we talk to each other in ways we don’t mean. We say things we don’t mean but that doesn’t mean we think the other person is stupid.
The difference now too is that I know I’m not stupid. I’m not stupid for having the opinions I do or for sharing them. I’m not stupid for being passionate about certain things. I’m not stupid even if I might have a ditzy moment here and there. I know I might come in contact with people who actually think I am stupid but at the end of the day, I know I’m not and the people that are worth my time and that I care about know that too and that’s all that matters.